Guide To Microsoft’s Many Shopping Search Sites

This is a long overdue post to clear up confusion around Microsoft’s multiple shopping sites which include MSN Shopping, Windows Live Shopping Beta, and Windows Live Product Search Beta. The Marketplaces & Shopping team at Microsoft also runs Windows Marketplace and Windows Live Expo but in this post, I’m just covering the general ecommerce initiatives.

MSN Shopping = Microsoft’s core shopping comparison engine. MSN Shopping covers over 7,000 merchants and 33 million products. The beauty of a shopping comparison engine like MSN Shopping is in its ability to normalize product pages – put simply, item clustering (I’m borrowing that term from Imran Aziz, Lead Program Manager Windows Live Product Search Beta), the ability to put all merchant offers for a particular product on a single page. MSN Shopping works off of very structured product data provided by and PriceGrabber.

Windows Live Shopping = The Web 2.0 version of MSN Shopping. Windows Live Shopping does not work with FireFox, although that will be taken care of soon. As MSN Shopping Program Manager Ian McAllister wrote on his blog, “[this] was arguably the first experience within the Shopping team in developing a truly loosely-coupled service. It prompted what you might call a services tidal wave within our team that pre-dated Ray Ozzie’s mail by a few months. Literally three-quarters of the development team went off and worked on a host of different services using the agile method and for the most part, operating independently of the other teams. The cornerstone of our web service platform is the set of core shopping web services that expose the product catalog, attribute refinements, compare and other functionality. Other services include ratings & reviews, wish list and guides.”

This is an incredible improvement over MSN Shopping. Great user interface, cool features and tools. Windows Live Shopping really puts the consumer first and is an exciting example of the new types of services Microsoft is developing

Windows Live Product Search = Microsoft’s shopping search engine. A shopping search engine differs from a shopping comparison engine in that it does not depend on merchants submitting data feeds, but rather crawls the web for merchants. Because of this, Windows Live Product Search covers over 100,000 merchants (a lot more than the 7,000 or so covered on MSN Shopping and Windows Live Shopping). A comprehensive experience is a great start, but I think we’re too early in the game to understand the implication of this new search offering.

While there are obviously big improvements in comprehensiveness, Windows Live Product Search users will notice that there aren’t normalized product pages (item clustering) in the traditional shopping comparison engine sense and merchant reveiws are a no show. According to the Product Search blog, though, these features are on the way.

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